“Arches, Balance, and Light” by Mary Spletter closes on March 6. Please do not miss it! It is a wonderful fictional history of the life of California’s first female architect, Julia Morgan. In the photo above are- clockwise from top left are: Robin Schild as Victor; John Simpson as Marguerite’s husband; Anastasia Bonaccorso as Marguerite; Ellen Brooks as the Elder Julia, and Zoe Swenson-Graham as Young Julia.
Directed by Jay Manley, the play is presented on a kind of split-stage: One half represents Morgan’s San Francisco apartment in 1947 ; the other half- her past, in Paris and Ecole des Beaux-Arts, 1898-1903, then in California, 1903. Spletter’s play is both identity search and mystery. Is the young woman, Marguerite (a comely, refined Anastasia Bonaccorso) who visits her, Julia’s daughter, whom she abandoned to concentrate on her career? The older Julia is played by Ellen Brooks (expressive, with excellent timing, and dismissive humor). The scenes move adroitly from 1947 to Morgan’s Paris past as the older Morgan tells Marguerite about her struggles as a student, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts against misogynistic students and professors. The matinee performance the day I went, the young Morgan was played by Zoe Swenson-Graham whose delicate, fresh-faced beauty belied her determination and strength. In a park near the Ecole, she meets Victor, an older man. Victor became her mentor and eventual lover.
Robin Schild, perfectly outfitted in a period three-piece suit and fedora, plays Victor believably, with graciousness, and caring; willing to acquiesce to Julia’s demands.
Morgan went on to create such historic buildings as the Hearst Castle. In all, she has designed over 700 buildings. Her use of re-enforced concrete saved many buildings in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake and fire. She was a role-model for women who believed in themselves and their talents to concentrate on a career in lieu of the expected, traditional role of wife and mother. A woman who not only bore a child outside of marriage but also left him/her with its father was scandalous then, and probably as recently as the 1960s (and possibly in some circles, today).
John Simpson rounds out the cast in multiple roles, handling each with excellent delineation.